Addiction is a widely misunderstood and stigmatized illness that affects millions of people in the United States each year. A recent study shows that “10 percent of US adults have drug use disorder at some point, and 75 percent report not receiving any form of treatment.” That’s too many people not receiving proper treatment for a serious condition.
If you suspect someone close to you is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD), confronting them may seem intimidating. Before approaching the person, we recommend planning to process and manage this situation more effectively. We hope our article sets you off the right course.
The Pros of Confronting a Loved One About Their SUD
If you wonder whether confronting your loved one about their addiction is a good idea, consider some pros and cons.
Your loved one may become defensive or angry with you. Often, their feelings of shame or fear of being judged by those closest to them cause them to retreat or deny the SUD. If this happens, it can feel like rejection and cause emotional distress for both parties involved, especially when you have come from a place of care and concern for their well-being.
- They may see that they have a problem.
- They may be willing to accept help from you.
- It may strengthen your relationship with them.
- They may seek treatment as a result.
- You show them that you care and want to help them improve their health.
Think of a Plan Before You Engage the Person
We recommend planning before setting the course to help your loved one with a SUD. The person you confront may become defensive or angry, so you need to be prepared for what comes next. As you form the plan, reflect on the following:
- Will the conversation be best if you’re alone with the person?
- Or would it be better to have someone else there?
- If you bring another person to the meeting, who should that person be?
- Where should you meet the person? Is it better or safer to meet in a private or public location?
- How will you handle or mitigate their reaction to the meeting?
- What action plan will you have in place in case they choose to or not to enter treatment?
8 Tips to Addressing Your Loved One’s SUD
After the reflection, consider incorporating some of these tips into your plan:
- Consider bringing a family member or close friend who also shares similar concerns about your loved one’s use of drugs or alcohol. By having someone with you, you may feel safer and more confident. But choose carefully, as other people may react emotionally. They can make things worse or ruin your chance of having a constructive conversation. If needed, consider bringing a professional like an interventionist with you.
- Consider Your Safety. While you might feel like you must help a loved one recover from addiction, remember that your safety comes first. If any threat is made against you or your family members during the confrontation, call 911 right away rather than trying to handle things yourself. Also, if the person has a history of violence, be sure to have another trusted individual present when you have that talk.
- Talking about substance abuse with the individual can be difficult. To make sure the person with SUD feels safe and at ease, it is crucial to choose a private but not remote place where you and the addict are comfortable. If possible, choose a place where the addict feels comfortable and at ease; this will help them be more open and honest about their addiction.
- Don’t confront the person when they’re under the influence. Facing someone high or drunk isn’t likely to result in meaningful dialogue. They may react angrily or deny there’s a problem — or forget the conversation later on. And if they’re high or drunk when you talk with them, they are more likely to become defensive or argumentative. Wait until they’re sober (or as close as possible) before having the conversation with them.
- Have an exit plan. The conversation may escalate if the person feels judged or denies their SUD. Thus, avoid arguing if the person denies having a problem or disagrees with you. Discussing will likely turn into an angry confrontation that will only worsen. Instead, as part of your exit plan, let the person know you’ll be available when they’re ready to discuss it further. Then, leave the conversation open-ended for another time. If possible, give them some options for treatment programs or rehabilitation facilities to reflect on it.
- Make your case logically and honestly. Make your main points short, clear, and direct, but avoid being accusatory or judgmental. Hence, focus on facts rather than feelings. To do so, bring up specific examples of their behavior concerning you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re an alcoholic,” try expressing your concern with a statement like “I’m worried about your health.” Plus, consider starting the conversation by asking the person about their situation — for example, “I’ve noticed you’ve been spending more time isolating” — rather than starting by making accusations.
- Tell them what could happen if things don’t change. Be honest but not threatening or abusive. Explain that continued drug use could put their relationships, jobs, freedom, and health at risk.
- Tell your loved one how you plan to help. Offer as much help as possible, like driving them to support groups, rehab centers, or counseling appointments.
If you intend to confront a loved one about their substance use disorder, think about what motivates you to do so. If you come across as accusatory or judgmental, your loved one may withdraw and become defensive. However, if you approach the conversation with compassion and understanding, your loved one may receptively receive the message. Essentially, if one chooses to frame these conversations in the context of families working together, SUD sufferers will more likely accept help and make a change. At Restoration Recovery Center, we walk with individuals with SUD and their loved ones through the recovery journey. Our services include individualized therapy, intimate accommodations in nature, a wide range of holistic services, and experienced clinicians willing to go the extra mile. Additionally, we offer family therapy to help families reconnect with loved ones grappling with SUD. Contact us today at (888) 290-0925 to learn more about our treatment program.